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Refugees in United States – By Lalisaa Hiikaa

Ethiopian-immigrants-in-KenyaIt seems that no one is willing to stand up for the basic human rights being denied to citizens of Ethiopia. At home, the Ethiopian regime is at war with its own people; forcefully detaining, torturing and murdering all in opposition. Unarmed protestors are met with deadly force, and even students have been the victims of violence; causing schools to be closed for months against the interest of millions of youth.
While massacre, mass detention and inhumane practices are happening in Ethiopia, more and more people seek refuge elsewhere. Some flee to neighboring countries in Africa, with fewer taking the ultimate risk and traveling thousands of miles to seek asylum in Europe and the United States. The US has historically aligned itself with Ethiopia as an ally, but frightened Ethiopians wonder where the billions of dollars in aid are being spent. Most have seen only an increase in brutality, complete disregard for the country’s constitution, extra-judicial killings, and overall terrorization by their own government. For the terror-stricken citizens, it would appear that western nations such as the United States are giving those in power a green light to continue these atrocities.
Recently, the Ethiopian community members and Oromo communities in Tampa Bay discovered that at least 16 Ethiopian immigrants have been held in two ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention centers in Florida- some for up to ten months. The intention to deport these immigrants poses a real threat to their safety, as citizens who flee the terror are at higher risk of retribution by the regime upon their return. The outcries of the Ethiopian communities, warning officials of the fate that will await deported refugees seeking asylum, seem to fall on deaf ears in the US government. Desperate to make a difference to the 16 whose lives are in jeopardy here in Florida, many have rallied together to campaign for their release. Funds are being hastily raised to pay for legal representation, and a call to action is being extended to the community for their assistance.
While the determined group works tirelessly to rescue their fearful peers, the broader issue remains; innocent citizens are being terrorized in their own country, with seemingly no assistance coming from those who have been outspoken about human rights in the past. As the Ethiopian government, one of the worst dictatorships in Africa, continues to trample the rights of its people, the US seems to have no comment- ignoring the atrocities and even signing a new defense and security agreement on March 31, 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Similarly, the UK seems to be taking a soft approach to dealing with the dictatorship. In June 2014, the Ethiopian regime kidnapped Londoner Andargachew Tsige while on transit in Yemen. Tsige, born in Ethiopia and now a British citizen, has long condemned the human rights violations of his native country, and fought for civil rights. The father of 3 is likely being subjected to horrific torture and degradation during his unlawful imprisonment; described by the UNHRC’s working group as “reliable evidence on a possible situation of physical abuse and mistreatment which could amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Despite this reality, and the UN Human Rights Council’s demands for his release, Tsige remains captive today, and the UK hesitant to do anything but request consular access, which is repeatedly denied.
Claiming to be an ally in “the war on terror,” the Ethiopian government wages a war of terror with its people on two fronts. On one, Oromo farmers are forcibly evicted off their own land near the capital of Addis Ababa, with little or no compensation. Displaced and impoverished, they are forced to become beggars and daily laborers. The fast growing economy and booming construction industry serve to line greedy pockets while leaving its people impoverished, with more than 14 million in need of food. A second tactic of the regime is the division of ethnic groups with the goal of inciting conflict that will weaken dissent. The Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups are targeted in attempts to instigate a clash, risking more violence in a nation already in crisis.
Since November 2015, Human Rights Watch has released several reports about the situations in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, and the atrocities perpetrated by Ethiopian government security forces. Unarmed protests of evictions and corruption are met with deadly force, and consequences for opposition are brutally delivered. The February 21, 2016 report states, “Ethiopian security forces are violently suppressing the largely peaceful protests in the Oromia region that began in November 2015. Almost daily accounts of killing and arbitrary arrest have been reported to Human Rights Watch since 2016 began.” Some reports have indicated that more than 400 people were killed, and thousands were arrested. Those detained have been reported to be subjected to horrific torture, rape and beatings. The most recent report, dated March 15, 2016, urged the UN Human Rights Council to voice concerns over what is clearly the biggest political crisis Ethiopia has encountered in decades.
Many would surrender to an overwhelming feeling of helplessness as one government rules by fear and violence and those leaders who promised safety turn a blind eye. The Ethiopian and Oromo communities in Tampa, however, continue to fight for their comrades who do not have a voice. The groups raised more than $1,000 in a day when the immigrants were first identified, and a core group of leaders have emerged to spread their message. In addition to contributing to the campaign to rescue the 16 immigrants at risk for deportation, they call the entire community to action in educating themselves and their neighbors about the terror happening at home and abroad.
Lalisaa Hiikaa: focatampabay@gmail.com

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